Filed in Category: horse training
Horse Doesn’t Like The Bridle
I have a problem with my horses brideling. Sometimes he is okay but most of the time he throws his head up to high for me to reach his ears. Usually he waits until I have the bit just about to go into his mouth and then he chucks his head out of reach.
Do you have any advice.
You could always try growing taller, Lisa. But if that’s not an option then I guess you could teach your horse to keep his head lower.
It sounds like you have 2 issues. The first is that he won’t accept the bit in his mouth. The second issue is that in order to avoid putting the bit in his mouth he throws his head up. There is a good chance that if you solve one issue you might solve the other – but not necessarily.
I’d start with teaching him to keep his head lower. Look at the photo. It shows Michelle from a clinic (not to be confused by with my wife, Michele) bridling her horse. The horse is turning his head away, whereas your horse is lifting his head up. Nevertheless, they are the same issue.
Start with teaching your horse to lower his head and keep it lowered by applying pressure on the lead rope under your horse’s chin. Use just enough pressure to match his resistance. Don’t do too much or too little. The moment your horse gives even a fraction, release the pressure. Then try again and again, until your horse can lower his head from just a small feel on the lead rope. Now repeat the same exercise, but instead of starting with a downward pull on the lead rope, put your right hand over the horse’s poll and apply a down pressure on the top of his head. Again, don’t use too much or too little. If there is not an effect, keep the pressure on the poll but at the same time apply some feel on the lead rope to encourage his head downward. Release both pressures the instant there is a small change. Keep repeating this exercise always starting with pressure on the poll and backing up with the lead rope if needed. But once your horse is giving to the pressure on the poll alone, you won’t need to pull on the lead rope.
Now look at the photo again.
Notice that Michele has her right hand over the poll of Toby, keeping his head down. At the same time, Michelle’s left hand is on Toby’s nose directing his head back to her. You should mimic the way Michelle is holding the bridle and with her right hand over the poll. Present the bridle to the horse, while holding the bridle in your right hand and your right arm over the horse’s poll. Use your left hand to bring the bit to his mouth. If he goes to throw his head up, be block it with your right arm to encourage it stays down. Do not take the bridle away from his head until he softens a little to lower his head again. Try your best to follow his head if he throws it around and you can use your left hand to support him with the lead rope by holding it close to the knot under his chin. The moment he stops throwing his head up, take the bridle away and rub him.
You are trying to show him that softening to your pressure and keeping his head in the correct position is the easiest way out for him. Repeat and repeat several times and never take the bridle away until the horse softens to your hand and stops avoid the bridle. If he runs backward, go with him. If he turns away, bring his head back to you (like in the photo). If he lowers his head to the ground, pick it up again and ask him to hold it at the correct level.
When you can present the bridle to him and there is minimal avoidance from your horse, then it’s time to ask him to accept the bit in his mouth.
Present the bit to him and wait a little while. If he is not interested and looks around etc, you can rub his gums with a finger (or something similar) to encourage his mouth to open. Once he has taken it, wait a few seconds and ask him to drop it out again. No need to worry about putting the bridle over the ears straight away. At first just practice accepting the bit. When this is going well, you can bridle him properly.
Look at the next photo and you can see Michelle’s horse turned towards her with head lowered for the bridle. This is what your horse should look like by the time you are done.